Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Graduation Does Not End Until the Last Day of Your Life

Graduation is only a concept.  In real life every day you graduate.  Graduation is a process that goes on until the last day of your life.  If you can grasp that, you’ll make a difference.”  - Arie Pencovici

Graduation season is upon us.  Graduates from preschool, junior high, high school and college will line up and march across the stage to receive a degree, certificate or other form of acknowledgment that a milestone has ended in successful completion. 

Why do we celebrate graduations?  I never really understood the big deal—that is until I became a parent!   Getting through high school without becoming a grandma was reason to celebrate!   Can I get a HOOYAH?!

I never was one of the “popular” kids in school.  Absurdly tall with no athletic ability, I tended to neither be “in” or “out”, just there.  My biggest flex (learned that from the Z Generation on tiktok—a thank you very much) in high school was probably catching the eye of the kicker of the varsity football team who became my boyfriend throughout high school.   I was neither engaged in high school activities nor was an academia of any kind.  In fact, until the day of graduation I wasn’t 100% sure I was going to walk.  I just knew I’d better—because according to my father, “Any dummy can graduate.  All you have to do in show up every day and turn in all your assignments!”   Now, my dad wasn’t minimizing those who did well in high school.  Instead, he was taking no excuses for me NOT to graduate high school.  And trust me, I pulled some wing dingers that gave me pause on graduation day.  I’m alive today to tell you—I graduated!  

College was a prerequisite to living at home after turning 18—so I milked that deal for six years until I received my B.A. in History.   (WARNING:  I tried, what I considered a “bullet-proof” plan to get my own daughter to graduate college.   Go to college or get out.   So, she decided marrying a Marine and moving to San Diego was the better option.  Tough love can backfire—and ricochet. 

As relieved as I was to graduate college, I didn’t even attend my college graduation—by choice.  Not to say that I wasn’t proud of receiving my degree, but I was way more concerned with, “What now?”   Sadly, I didn’t understand at the time the privilege I had to be able to attend college and that the graduation ceremony was not just about me—it was also for my family.  My graduating cub has a similar attitude that I had and really doesn’t get the point of the ceremony.  But, I sure do!  For one thing, I want PROOF that he has indeed graduated—and second—I, like many of you, worked really hard helping him with distance learning this year.  I DESERVE this ceremony.  Us parents should get a hat and tassel too!  Ding Darn it!

Graduating insinuates an end, but now there has to be the beginning of something else, right?  We should celebrate these educational milestones and accomplishments with the recognition that we have gained the skill and knowledge to navigate the sometimes “school of hard knocks.”    Even after graduation, we are being schooled—in life, right?  And yet, how often do we celebrate that we made it through a difficult day, that we survived a challenging assignment or that we learned a new skill that we never thought we could grasp?  There was a beginning—and an end—and you made it to the next day a little bit stronger and a little more capable.  You graduated.  Celebrate!

Understanding that graduating with a degree does not mark the end, is an important concept.  Bask in the glory of your accomplishment, but don’t ignore all the daily achievements, lessons and experiences that shape you.   And, also recognize that you have a lot more graduations to celebrate.   It’s not time to rest.  The following are a few examples of how you can continue the pursuit of life-long learning and growth—keeping in mind that “graduation is a process that goes on until the last day of your life.”

1.       Read Every Day- Whether it be the newspaper (you know that rolled up paper that usually gets thrown on your wet grass or underneath your car), news articles online, personal and professional books or books for pleasure, reading enriches your vocabulary and also ignites your scope of knowledge, curiosity and creativity.

2.       Be Informed- Stay abreast of current social, political and economic issues that could have an impact on you, your family and your community.  Knowledge is key to understanding important issues plaguing our country.  Do your research and form your own educated opinion so that you can have a voice.

3.       Get Involved- Participate on local boards, join the school PTA, become a member of the local Chamber of Commerce or other type of community volunteerism.  Not only is it a wonderful way to help local schools, businesses or charitable organizations, it’s a valuable way for you to be exposed to individuals from different backgrounds, cultures, viewpoints and experiences. 

4.       Continue Learning- I can’t stress this enough.  As a leader, nothing impresses me more than having an employee who is actively pursuing personal and professional growth.  This can include, volunteering on committees, requesting to attend webinars, workshops or conferences to improve their skills and abilities, continuing their academic education (even if it is one class- you are still one class closer to achieving your goal) or showing enthusiasm and interest in growing in their job or in the organization.

5.       Jump Outside the Box- There is something amazing about life-long graduations.  As you keep growing, you keep gaining confidence and you become more willing to try things outside your comfort zone.  Tackle things that you fear.  For example, if you have a fear of public speaking, start small.  Practice in front of family, friends or trusted colleagues.  Next, start raising your hand during meetings and sharing your opinions publically.  As you get more comfortable, graduate to taking a public speaking class or joining your local Toastmasters and master the skill.

6.       Don’t Stop- Don’t stop graduating until your very last day.

If you read this article, congratulations!  Add personal and professional growth to your daily list of accomplishments and acknowledge all that you achieved today.  

Great job, Graduate!

 Photos:  Top:  My cub at pre-school graduation and him as a high school senior (Class of 2021!)


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